After being named an All-American as a junior in 2008, sprinter Andre Barnes was relegated to the sidelines with an ankle injury for the first six weeks of his final indoor season.

Chris Dzombak/Daily
Craig Forys at the Big Ten Men’s Cross Country Championship on November 2, 2008.

But his recent return to the Michigan men’s track and field team and his continuing return to All-American form gave the 13th-ranked Wolverines a much-needed boost at the non-scoring Akron Open on Saturday.

Michigan coach Fred LaPlante described his team’s performance as a “mixed bag,” and somewhat emblematic of this year’s indoor season, but Barnes helped the team leave Ohio on a high note.

After a day in which he ran a 49.67-second 400-meter dash, subpar by his standards, the West Bloomfield native picked up the pace and helped Michigan blow away the field in the 4×400-meter relay. The relay team’s 3:13.05 time in the finals was nearly three seconds ahead of second-place Eastern Michigan.

LaPlante was very encouraged by his team’s relay win, but he was disappointed that Ohio State withdrew from the event at the last minute. According to LaPlante, the Buckeyes have one of the best 4×400 relay teams in the nation, and the competition would have helped with the Big Ten Championship meet looming in two weeks.

“We were hoping they’d run in it because we knew we’d run faster if they were in it,” LaPlante said. “You usually run your best 4x400s when two or three teams are fighting the whole way. That’s where you set the really great marks.

“There’s nothing wrong with winning by a lot, but usually your best times are going to come in those kind of situations.”

LaPlante said Barnes’s continued progress will also be important for the Big Ten meet, given how evenly matched the teams have been this season.

“He’s talented enough and doing enough training that in two weeks, he will be close to his best,” LaPlante said. “Once you’ve achieved at a high level, if you’ve done enough work and you’re mentally ready, it’s amazing how you can rise to the occasion.”

Redshirt junior thrower Sean Pruitt recorded the other win of the day by winning the shot put with the fifth-longest throw in school history. The throw was his second NCAA provisional mark of the season. Pruitt also earned a provisional on Jan. 17 in “The Dual” against Ohio State in the weight throw by breaking Michigan’s school record.

Distance runners Sean McNamara and Craig Forys also had big weekends at the Husky Invitational in Seattle by running career-best times that netted each runner an NCAA provisional time in the 3,000-meter and 5,000-meter events.

Next Saturday’s Silverston Invitational at the Indoor Track Building will be the last home meet of the indoor season and a final tune-up for the conference championship meet.

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